Eight GOP Senate candidates present positions at Gurnee forum
By Ed Collins
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS SUN
GURNEE — Eight Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in Illinois next year launched their campaigns here Tuesday night when they appeared as a panel before the Republican Assembly of Lake County.
Candidates appearing were John L. Borling, Raymond Choudhry, John Cox, Chirinjeev Kathuria, Thomas J. McCraken Jr., Andrew McKenna, Steven J. Rauschenberger and Jack Ryan.
Before a standing-room-only crowd at Gurnee Village Hall, popular local moderator Hal Coxon accepted written questions from the audience and then asked each candidate to respond within the allotted one-minute time frame.
The candidates covered nine questions in 1 1/2 hours.
On the question of taxes, all readily agreed that the American people are taxed too much.
Borling, a retired Air Force major general, recommended spending less, "but get more bang for the buck."
Cox, an accountant, said with a $2.2 trillion federal budget we not only tax too much, "but we need a simpler system to deal with it."
Rauschenberger agreed that we need a simpler tax system, "and one with a lower tax base."
Kathuria, a physician, vowed that if elected he would not impose a tax increase. He said American business needs to improve its productivity.
Jack Ryan, a teacher, said he not only wants to reduce the corporate tax rate, but do away with the estate tax and the capital gains tax. "It's the poor who suffer under the capital gains tax," he said.
The necessity for legal tort reform was another hot issue. All candidates agreed that damage awards are skyrocketing and caps are needed to control the situation, particularly in the area of medical malpractice.
McCraken said malpractice caps really work. He cited California as a state that brought runaway damage awards under control by capping jury assessments.
Kathuria said malpractice insurance premiums are averaging $35,000 to $40,000 a year in Illinois for ob-gyn practitioners. He said a malpractice damage cap of $250,000 would be sufficient to reduce premiums.
Cox declared that the Democratic Party "is owned by the trial lawyers" and said he is all in favor of capping award damages. He blamed the fact that trial lawyers receive one-third of the total damages awarded.
Choudhry supported a no-fault malpractice system.
On foreign policy issues, the Iraq War took center stage with the question "is the Iraq War a just war?" All of the candidates felt is was.
Ryan felt that it would just be a matter of time before actual proof of weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq.
Rauschenberger, who has served in the state Senate since 1992, urged President Bush "to stay the course and don't worry about Democratic sniping."
Borling said we should not become "impatient" with the war's progress.
A question on free trade brought a mixed response. Most of the candidates generally supported the idea, but some accused certain countries like China of abusing the privilege.
Rauschenberger said he supported the principal of free trade, "but we need to review our trade agreements with China." He said China does not play fairly.
Cox said some trade agreements "make American business compete with one arm held behind our back." He blamed faulty trade regulations for preventing fair competition.
Borling agreed. "We can't compete with overseas farm products. We need to find new markets we can enter," he said.
A question on whether or not Internet sales transactions should be taxed also brought mixed reaction.
Rauschenberger thought that states should receive their fair amount. But McCraken, Cox, Choudhry, Borling and Ryan were opposed, maintaining that the new media needed time to develop before taxing its products.
Are more homeland security measures necessary? Most thought so.
However, McCraken said, "Frankly, I don't know. I'm not willing to say we need to spend more tax dollars for this purpose."
Borling said, "We need to hold the line."
To a question on abortion, all of the candidates except Borling identified themselves as pro-life.
Borling said, "A woman must have sovereignty over her own body."
Choudhry qualified his pro-life position by stating he supports abortion in cases of rape or incest.
The only announced Senate candidate who was not present was James Oberweis, who was reported out of the country.